Some Notable Anglo Saxon Women

Some Notable Anglo-Saxon Women
Renwein (or Rowena) – daughter of the first king of Kent, Hengist (r. 455-488) who married
King Vortigern of Britain.
Bertha – daughter of King Charibert and Queen Ingoberga of the Franks, wife of King
Æthelbert of Kent (r. 560-616), she was a Christian who brought her personal priest,
Liudhard, with her and was given St Martin’s church in Canterbury to use and provided a
focus for St Augustine’s mission.
Ricula (or Ricole) – sister of King Æthelbert who married King Sledda of Essex (r. 587-604)
and was mother of King Sæberht (r. 604-616) the first Christian king of Essex whose
conversion she probably assisted.
Æthelburh (or Ethelburga) – daughter of Æthelbert and Bertha, wife of King Edwin of
Northumbria (r. 616-633) who emulated her mother by adhering to her faith and took Bishop
Paulinus as her chaplain and who had an active part in Edwin’s conversion.
Emma – Frankish wife of King Eadbald (r. 616-640) known from a spurious charter and the
Norman historians.
Eanswith – daughter of Eadbald and Emma and possibly founding abbess of Folkestone.
Seaxburh (or Sexburga) – daughter of King Anna of East Anglia (r. 635-654) wife of King
Earconberht (r. 640-664), founding abbess of Minster-in-Sheppey (664-679) and successor to
her sister Æthelthryth as abbess of Ely (679-699).
Eormenhild – daughter of Seaxburh and wife of King Wulfhere of Mercia (r. 658-675) who
succeeded her mother as abbess at Minster-in-Sheppey (679-699) and then at Ely (699-703).
Æbbe (or Domneva) – cousin of King Egbert (r. 664-673) and wife of King Merewald of the
Magonsæta (r. 657-670), founding abbess of Minster-in-Thanet (664-c.697) with 70 nuns in
memory of her two murdered brothers.
Mildrith – daughter of Æbbe and also abbess of Minster-in-Thanet (c. 708-c. 735) whose
legend along with her sisters Mildburh and Mildgith became very popular. As St Mildred
became patron of many churches.
Eormenburh – sister of Æbbe and second wife of King Ecgfrith of Northumbria (r. 670-685),
an enemy of Bishop Wilfred, who as a widow was an abbess probably at Lyminge (685-c.
690), Eastry (c. 690-c. 695) and Carlisle (c. 695-c. 705).
Eangyth (or Eormengyth) – sister of Æbbe and Eormenburh, wife of King Centwine of
Wessex (r. 676-685) who expelled Wilfred from Wessex on her sister’s behalf but became
abbess as a widow possibly back in Kent at Eastry (c. 695-c. 705) in succession to her sister,
later succeeded by her daughter Bugga, a correspondent of Boniface, the missionary to
Bearnoch – wife of King Ida, the founder of Bernicia (r. 547-559) and mother of six sons,
three of whom succeeded as king, a rare example of a pre-Christian queen whose name has
Bebba – first wife of King Æthelfrith (r. 592-616), who gave her the stronghold of Din Guaire
which was renamed Bebbanburh after her and is the modern Bamburgh.
Acha – second wife of King Æthelfrith and daughter of King Ælle the founder of Deira (r.
569-599) whose union marked the reunification of Northumbria, mother of six sons, two of
whom succeeded as king.
Hilda – cousin of King Edwin (r. 616-633) who was raised in exile when Æthelfrith expelled
Edwin’s family, returning with Edwin to become abbess of Hartlepool (649-657) and
founding abbess of Whitby (657-680) where she hosted the famous Synod in 664.
Eanflæd – daughter of Edwin and Æthelburh, returned from exile in Kent to marry King
Oswiu (r. 642-670) where her attachment to the Roman rite led to the Synod of Whitby and
Oswiu abandoning the Celtic rite, an ally of Wilfred, she succeeded Hilda as abbess (680704).
Ælfflæd – daughter of Oswiu and Eanflæd who was given to Hilda at Hartlepool as an infant
to be brought up as a nun in 655 following the victory at Winwæd over King Penda of
Mercia, she later succeeded her mother as abbess of Whitby (704-714) when she supported
Wilfred’s reinstatement as bishop of Ripon.
Æthelthryth – daughter of King Anna of East Anglia (r. 635-654) firstly married to Prince
Tondberht of the South Gyrwas and secondly to King Ecgfrith of Northumbria (r. 670-685)
from whom she was separated on the grounds of non-consummation so she could be the
founding abbess of Ely (673-679) which became hugely wealthy due to her veneration.
Æthelburh – sister of Bishop Earconwald of London, abbess of Barking (675-679) and
addressee of Aldhelm’s book “De Virginitate”.
Cynewise – wife of King Penda (r. 626-655) who acted as regent when her husband was on
campaign, holding King Oswiu’s son, Ecgfrith, hostage at the time of her husband’s death.
Cyneburh and Cyneswith – daughters of Penda and Cynewise, benefactors of Peterborough
Abbey, the former was wife of King Alchfrith of Deira (r. 655-664) and then abbess of Castor
(664-c. 680) where she was succeeded by her sister (c. 680-709).
Alchflæd – daughter of King Oswiu of Northumbria (r. 642-670) and wife of King Peada of
the South Mercians (r. 653-656), son of Penda, on whose marriage her husband was obliged
to convert to Christianity but was subsequently accused of conspiring his murder.
Osthryth – sister of Alchflæd and wife of Penda’s youngest son, King Ethelred of Mercia (r.
675-704), who promoted the cult of her uncle Oswald, securing his bones for Bardney Abbey
against the wishes of the monks, she was the first Mercian queen to appear in charters and
was murdered in 697 by the Mercian nobility.
Wærburh – abbess of Chester (c. 670-707) where she was venerated as a saint, possibly a
former queen of Mercia.
Frithoswith (or Frideswide) – Abbess in Oxford (c. 710-727) where there is still a church
named after her and she is remembered as the city’s patroness, possibly of royal origins.
Cynethryth – wife of King Offa (r. 757-796), appeared in many charters, the only AngloSaxon queen to have coins minted in her name, mother of King Ecgfrith (r. 796) after whose
death she became abbess of Cookham (796-c. 820), according to a late hagiography was
blamed for the sudden death of King Æthelbert of East Anglia whilst he was visiting Mercia.
Cwenthryth – daughter of King Coenwulf (r. 796-821), had aspirations to become queen
according to a very late hagiography of Cenelm, her brother, whom she was supposed to have
murdered, abbess of Winchcombe (811-c. 830).
Æthelswith – daughter of King Æthelwulf of Wessex (r. 839-855) and wife of King Burgred
(r. 852-874) with whom she issued charters as well as independently, after her husband was
deposed they went to Rome and she returned to Wessex and carried out missions for her
brother Alfred, dying in Pavia on a second pilgrimage to Rome in 888.
Æthelflæd – daughter of King Alfred of Wessex (r. 871-899) wife of Ealdorman Ethelred of
Mercia (r. 879-911) with whom she ruled jointly and then as regent during his infirmity and
whom she ultimately succeeded with the title Lady of the Mercians (r. 911-918), played
active role in reconquest of Danish territory with her brother Edward, with notable victories
at Tettenhall, in Wales and at Derby, she was a prolific builder of defensive burhs, received
Leicester without a fight and was recognised by the Danes in York as overlord.
Seaxburh (or Sexburga) – wife of King Coenwalh (r. 642-645, 648-672) whom she succeeded
as queen (r. 672-674), the first Anglo-Saxon woman recorded to have done so.
Cuthburh – sister of King Ine (r. 688-726), wife of King Aldfrith of Northumbria (r. 685-704)
but separated and became abbess of Wimborne (c. 710-c. 720) where she was succeeded by
her sister Cwenburh (c. 720-c. 735).
Æthelburh – probably second wife of King Ine and much younger, a cousin whose brother,
Æthelheard succeeded when Ine abdicated to travel on pilgrimage to Rome, she had acted as
regent retaking Taunton during the rebellion of 722, she issued charters jointly with Ine and
accompanied him to Rome in 726.
Frithogyth – wife of King Æthelheard (r. 726-740) who issued charters jointly with her
husband and independently, made a pilgrimage to Rome in 737 without her husband but with
Bishop Forthere.
Eadburh – daughter of King Offa of Mercia (r. 757-796), originally betrothed to the son of
Charlemagne but married King Beorhtric (r. 786-802) whom she was said to have
accidentally poisoned whilst trying to kill his favourite, fled to France where Charlemagne
gave her a religious house to run but when she failed she went to Italy where she died in
poverty in Pavia.
Osburh – probably second wife of King Æthelwulf (r. 839-855) and mother of Alfred whom
she helped to educate.
Judith – daughter of King Charles the Bald of France (r. 840-877), married King Æthelwulf
on his return from Rome in 856 aged 12 or 13 and was queen of Kent 856-858, she married
secondly, her stepson, King Æthelbald (r. 855-860), and thirdly, Count Baldwin I of Flanders
and their son, Baldwin II, married Alfred’s daughter, Ælfthryth.
Ælfthryth – daughter of King Alfred (r. 871-899) who became the first Anglo-Saxon royal
woman to marry abroad, Count Baldwin II of Flanders (r. 879-918), their descendants
included Matilda, the queen of William I.
Ælfflæd – second wife of King Edward the Elder (r. 899-924), noted for her piety, she is
reputed to have embroidered the new vestments which her stepson, King Athelstan, gave to
Cuthbert when his body was exhumed at Durham.
Eadgifu – third wife of King Edward the Elder, mother of King Edmund (r. 939-946) and
King Eadred (r. 946-955), appeared prominently in their charters suggesting she was a major
counsellor during their reigns, also appearing in the charters of her younger grandson, King
Edgar (r. 959-975) whose side she promoted in his struggle with his older brother, Edwy.
Æthelflæd of Damerham – second wife of King Edmund whose will survives, a rare example
of a royal female will.
Ælfgifu – cousin and first wife of King Edwy (r. 955-959), during whose coronation
celebrations she and her mother enticed him to their bedroom and provoked admonishment
by Dunstan and whose conduct disgraced the king so that the country divided in loyalties.
Ælfthryth – third wife of King Edgar (r. 959-975) with whom she took an important role as
queen being the first for whom a consecration at the coronation was recorded, she was a
generous endower of religious houses, was later blamed for the death of her stepson, King
Edward the Martyr (r. 975-978), when he visited her at Corfe, and acted as regent and adviser
for her son, King Ethelred II the Unready (r. 978-1013, 1014-1061).
Ælfgifu (or Emma) – daughter of Duke Richard the Fearless of Normandy (r. 942-996),
second wife of Ethelred II the Unready and subsequently wife of King Canute (r. 1016-1035),
she acted as regent during his absences in Denmark and for her son, King Hardicanute (r.
1035-6, 1040-1042) and was responsible for the reconciliation between him and her son by
Ethelred, King Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066), the “Encomium Emmae Reginae” was
written for her to clear her of blame in the murder of her son Alfred.
Eadgyth (or Edith) – daughter of Earl Godwin, chief minister of King Canute, wife of King
Edward the Confessor, she helped in the succession of her brother King Harold on her
husband’s death, in Domesday Book she was revealed to be one of the richest landowners in
England in 1066.
Godgifu (or Godiva) – wife of Leofric, earl of Mercia (c. 1023-1057), whose reputation was
for brutal rule over his people which she tried to temper, according to legend, by
embarrassing him by riding through Coventry naked, but both were generous benefactors to
religious houses and she appeared in charters and Domesday Book.
Margaret – granddaughter of King Edmund II (r. 1016), born in Hungary but returned to
England with her family in 1057 at request of King Edward the Confessor, sister of King
Edgar Atheling (r. 1066) and fled with him after the Norman Conquest to Scotland where she
married King Malcolm III (r. 1058-1093) with whom she had several children including
Edith who changed her name to Matilda to marry King Henry I.
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